The second half of month three proved to be both challenging and fulfilling in various ways. Weather and terrain did their best to hold me back but a bubble of hikers and a few outstanding individuals helped bolster me through the miles.
After a long asphalt roadwalk, the trail turned onto a dirt road littered with hunting camps. I ended up pitching my tent in the same area as a father and son on a hunting trip and we shared stories, dinner and whiskey that evening. The next morning after the hunters had left for the day and I was packing up, a car pulled up next to my tent. I was confused and a little on edge until a familiar dog ran up to greet me- one of my closest hiker friends had unexpectedly tracked me down! We made coffee and pancakes while chatting nonstop about our trails and trials since the last time we had adventured together. She could only stay for one day, but we hiked quite a bit together, doing fewer miles with more smiles.
In the following days, I climbed up to incredible high points with panoramic views and beautiful rock formations. The trail danced along the top of multiple knife-edge ridgelines and summited Parkview Mountain at 12,300' before dropping down into Never Summer Wilderness and then Rocky Mountain National Park. The weather once again turned wet and cold, thunderstorming on a large group of us camping at the edge of the national park and leaving snow on the high peaks. The following day I hiked into the town of Grand Lake, where I met probably a dozen new hikers, all concerned about the weather shift and the white peaks. It felt good to be surrounded by other hikers facing the same things and be able to commiserate and hear other plans.
When I hiked out of town, I saw a black bear climbing though the deadfall and followed a young bull moose the following morning. Another snowstorm rolled in as I approached some of the highest elevation points on the entire trail. I caught up to another group of hikers and as the snow began to fly around us, we all chose to take an alternate route instead of climbing over the high peaks. The lower route climbed over two passes before dropping into the town of Silverthorne, where I gorged myself at the first (and potentially only) Chipotle on trail. I found other hikers I knew there and ended up hiking out with one of them.
We climbed over two more beautiful passes before rejoining the main trail at Copper Mountain ski resort and following it south to Twin Lakes. Each night got colder and colder, with the condensation from my breath freezing solid on the inside of my tent each morning. The aspens are beginning to change from green to gold, and I learned that it can be sunny and hailing at the same time. I still have a few hundred more miles in Colorado and am crossing my fingers that the weather stays favorable long enough to get through the San Juan Mountains!!
Trail totals so far
Days on Trail: 93 Miles Hiked: 1830.2 Number of Showers: 19 Times my Laundry has Been Done: 10 Days of Rest (Zero miles!): 19 Nights Spent in a Bed: 25 Nights Spent Camping Alone: 23 Times I've Fallen: 11 Number of Bears Seen: 5 Times I've Hitchhiked: 13 Shortest Full Hiking Day: 9.7 miles Longest Full Hiking Day: 40.5 miles Average Daily Mileage: 19.7 miles (including zeroes)
When I resupply, I look at how many miles I need to hike until my next stop and what the terrain is like to determine how many days' worth of food I will need. The more I hike, the better I get at this calculus, but sometimes I still get it wrong. On this last stretch through the Gila River Wilderness, I definitely got it wrong and my hiking partner and I ended up a bit at odds, having some severe food anxiety for days and being VERY hungry. How did it go so wrong?
Usually I make my food before I leave home, dehydrating and measuring and preparing every meal with nutrition, calorie content and weight in mind. I sort all of my food into resupply boxes and label them for post office drops along the way. Sometimes, however, things get messy. A box gets lost in the mail. I arrive on a holiday weekend and would have to wait 3 days for...
Honestly though, this hike has been worlds apart from my thru hike of the PCT. The trail itself has a very different feel, the people are different, and I am a different hiker than I was on my last journey. This hike has been such a unique experience from any of my other hikes and I am so grateful for it.